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tv   Senate Narrowly Rejects Health Care Law Repeal in 49-51 Vote  CSPAN  July 27, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EDT

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it, is going to offer an amendment, but we don't know what he is amending because we don't even know what is in the legislation that the republicans will bring forward. how do you amend something when we don't even have a base bill to amend? so this is, i suck -- i hope i'm wrong. i hope senator daines has seen the light, but i suspect not, and i suspect it's just a political game. but i do hope, by the way, at some point within this debate, if we can, if not, certainly in the near future, to, in fact, be introducing a medicare for all single payer program. it will be somewhat different than my friend john conyers' bill in the house, but what it will do is say that in america, if you are rich or if you are poor, if you are a man, woman, and child, yes, you are entitled
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to health care as a human right and not a privilege. mr. president, as you may or may not know, our current health care system is the most expensive bureaucratic and wasteful system in the entire world. and while the health care industry makes hundreds of billions of dollars a years in profit, and in many ways what our health care system is about is not about providing quality care to all of us, but to seeing how the insurance companies and drug companies can rip us off. the truth is that even today we have some 28 million people who have no health insurance. so our goal should be to say to those 28 million, we are going to provide health insurance to you, to all americans, not to
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throw 22 million, 23 million more people off of health insurance. mr. president, all of us recognize that the affordable care act is far, far from perfect. and what the american people want us to do in poll after poll is they want us to improve the affordable care act, not destroy it. the american people are paying deductibles that in many instances are far too high, keeping people from going to the doctor when they need to. today copayments are much too high, premiums are much too high. i find it interesting, mr. president, that when donald trump campaigned for president, he talked about the high cost of prescription drugs. he's right. i will get into that in a
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moment. in this country we pay far too much for prescription drugs. s that what people want -- that's what people want us to do. they want us to lower the cost of prescription drugs. but i have not heard one word from the republicans about the need to lower the cost of prescription drugs. mr. president, the united states spends far, far more per capita on health care than any major country on earth and we often have worst outcomes. now, the first -- if we go back to regular order, if we go back to the committee process, which is what we should -- the very first question that a member of the senate should ask is: how does it happen that here in america we spend far, far more
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per per capita on health care than people from any other country? here is the chart. in the united states now we are spending $9,990 per person on health care. we are spending almost $10,000 per person on health care. what do they spend in germany? they spend $5,300. almost half of what we spend. what about canada? i live 50 miles away from the border. it's a really nice country. they spent $3,533. how is it that we are spending more per person. the french spend less than half of what we do, the australians spend less than half of what we do, the japanese spend less than
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half, and the u.k., they spend about 40%. don't you think, mr. president, that the very first question that a member of the senate might ask, why do we spend so much compared to other countries? by the way, all of these other countries guarantee health care to all of their people, and in many instances, the outcomes -- the health outcomes in those countries -- is better than our country. they live longer. their infant mortality rate is lower, and in some particular diseases they do better in treating it their people. mr. president, here is a simple truth, and the truth is that if we took a hard look at countries around the world, all of which have in one form or another
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national health care programs all of which said that health care is a right whether you're rich or you're poor, maybe we might want to learn something. but, no -- but, no, no. we have not had a hearing to talk about why we spend twice as much per capita for health care and why we pay twice as much for prescription krution. you know -- prescription drugs. you know why we haven't talked about that? because it might get insurance companies nervous. insurance companies pour hundreds and hundreds and millions of dollars into campaign contributions into the political process. the pharmaceutical industry spends a huge amount of money on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. so i say to my colleagues in the senate, maybe, just maybe, we
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might want to stand up for working people and the middle class rather than for the onus of the insurance companies and pharmaceutical industry. now, it's interesting. one never knows what to expect from the president. every day there is another adventure out there. but a couple of months ago the president met with, i believe, the australian prime minister. that was in may. the president, president trump said during that meeting that australia has, quote, better health care, end quote, better health care system than the united states. that's what donald trump said. to my republican friends here who support president trump, listen to what he said because on this one instance -- he's not right very often but i will
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confess on this issue he is right. in australia everyone is guaranteed health care as a right. australia has a universal health care program called, ironically medicare, that affords all australians with affordable and accessible, high quality health care while the united states has the most ineffective health care system in the world, australia has one of the most efficient. president trump was right. in 2014 australia's health care system ranked sixth out of 55 countries in efficiency, the united states ranked 44. not only does australia guarantee universal coverage, they spend less than the united states per capita. they spent $4,500 while we spent
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$10,000. while the australian government spent 9% on its health care, the united states spent nearly double that, 17%. many health care services are cheaper in australia. an m.r.i. costs $5,000 in the united states compared to $11,000. one day in the hospital costs less. an and desk my costs -- anden desk my costs lest in australia than the united states. australia pends -- spends less per capita, they have better health outcomes. in 2014, the average life expectancy in australia was 82.4
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years compared to 78.8 years in the united states. they live longer in australia. for context, according to a 2014 report from the world health organization, australians have the third longest life expectancy and australian women have the fourth largest -- longer life expectancy, and the united states doesn't even crack the top ten despite spending more on health care. mr. president, what this comes down to is the fact that we in america are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. and the question that we have got to ask ourselves, and i hope that senator danes will address that question as he introduces his medicare for all bill, is, how does it happen that in canada every man, woman, and
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child is guaranteed health care. the same is true in the u.k., germany, france, japan, and australia and every other major country on earth -- how does it happen that every industrialized country understands that health care is a right of all people? because all of us get sick. all of us have accidents, not just the rich. how come every major country on earth says that health care is a right? how come we have 28 million without any health insurance, more who have high deductibles, high copayments or are underinsured and the response of our republican friends say, 28 million uninsured, that's not enough. let's throw another 22 million people off of health insurance. our response should be to guarantee health care to all
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people and not throw another 22 million people off of health insurance. now, i don't have the time to go into great detail as to why our wasteful and bureaucratic health care system and some spending almost twice as much per capita as other systems around the world. that is another discussion and i intend to play an active role in that discussion. but let me give you some examples -- just a few examples. because we have such a bureaucratic and complicated system because hospitals in america have got to deal with this person who has a $5,000 deductible, that person who has an $8,000 deductible, this person who has this and that person who has that.
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they have different con if i radifications -- con fig radifications, it involves a large amount of manpower to deal with those insurance companies. the result of that is that the united states spends far more on hospital administrative costs than most other countries. these costs accounted for a quarter of total u.s. hospital spending in 2010 to 2011, more than $200 billion over twice what was spent in canada and scotland. what i would hope, if we don't sit around just worrying about the profits of the insurance companies, what i would hope that all of us would agree is that when we spend $1 on health care, we want that dollar to go to doctors, nurses, medicine. we want that dollar to go to the provision of health care, not to
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advertising, not to profiteering, not to dividends, not to outlandish c.o.e. insurance -- c.e.o. insurance company salaries, but to the actual provision of health care which keeps us well. yet, we do that worse than any other major country on earth. mr. president, the -- madam president, the large health insurance and drug companies are making hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every single year and they are rewarding their executives with outrageous compensation packages. once again, the function to health care in my mind is to provide quality care for all in a cost-effective way, not to make ceo -- c.e.o.'s of drug and insurance companies richer than they are today. in 2015, the top five health
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insurance companies made $24 billion in profits. should the function of health care in america be to allow insurance companies to make huge profits or should we make sure that all of our people get quality health care? and not only -- not only do the insurance companies make huge profits, but their c.e.o.'s make outlandish salaries while 28 million americans have no health insurance at all and others have very high deductibles. 2015, madam president, aetna's c.e.o. made $17.2 million in compensation. now, aetna, like every other insurance company, spends half their life trying to tell people they are not covered for what they thought they were covered, but they do manage to find $17 million in salary compensation for their c.e.o.
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cigna's c.e.o. made $17.3 million in compensation, the united health group made $14.5 million in compensation, anthem wellpoint made $13.6 million and humana made $14 million. is health -- is the function of health care in america to make c.e.o.'s outlandishly wealthy or is it to provide health care to all people? but it's not just the insurance companies. if you ask people in my state of vermont what their major concern is, -- and i think they would say the same in iowa, probably any state in america -- they would say we're sick and tired of being ripped off by the drug companies. we go into our pharmacy, have a medicine i have been using for ten years. suddenly the price doubled, tripled, for no particular reason other than the pharmaceutical industry could get away with it. because, madam president, we are
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the only major country on earth not to control the prices of the pharmaceutical industry. the result is -- and this is an outrage that speaks to everything that should be discussed but which is not being discussed in the republican bill, is that today one out of five patients under the age of 65 who gets a prescription from their doctor is unable to afford that prescription. now, how crazy is that? what kind of dysfunctional health care system allows somebody to go to a doctor because they are sick, doctor writes a prescription, one out of five americans can't even afford to fill that prescription? what happens to that person? well, the likelihood is they get even sicker. they end up at the emergency room at outrageous costs. maybe even worse they end up at the hospital. how crazy is that? i have not heard one word, not one word from the republicans about addressing the absurdity of americans paying by far the
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highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. and i've got a chart over here. it just deals with half a dozen drugs, but we can list many, many more. lantus, a diabetes drug, costs costs $186 in the united states. diabetes, a very, very serious problem. $186 in the united states. $47 in france. same drug. this is a health care reform debate. i have yet to hear one republican raise that issue, madam president, but i think the people in iowa and the people in vermont want us to raise that issue. crestor, a popular drug for high cholesterol, costs $86 in the united states. $29 in japan. advair, used to treat asthma, another very serious problem. costs $155 in our country.
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$38 in germany. and the list goes on and on and on. that's why millions of people, by the way, are now buying their medicine in canada and other countries, because they are sick and tired of being ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry, an industry that spends billions of dollars over a period of time on lobbyists here, campaign contributions. you might think, just might, that when we deal about health care reform, one republican, just one might stand up and say, well, maybe we might want to stand with the elderly and the sick in this country and not just with the pharmaceutical industry. i have not heard one republican in this debate talk about that issue. i will give you an example of the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. i can go on and on. they are the greediest, maybe with the exception of wall street. hard to determine which one of these institutions are more greedy, but the pharmaceutical
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industry certainly can make a claim of being the greediest industry in this country. out in california a few months ago, there was the effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs in their state. it was called proposition 61. the big drug companies spent $131 million to defeat that valid initiative. $131 million to defeat a ballot initiative in california that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs. and all over this country, the american people cannot afford the medicine they need but the drug companies had $131 million to spend just on one initiative. meanwhile, while the american people are getting sicker and sicker and sometimes dying, because they cannot afford the medications they have received, i have received and i think every member of the senate has
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received communications from oncologists, people who are dealing with patients who have cancer who are saying my patients cannot afford the high costs of cancer medicine, and it's not just cancer, of course. but while the american people are getting ripped off by the drug companies, the five largest drug companies in america in 2015 made over $50 billion in profits. five companies, $50 billion in profits, and yet, one-fist of the american people cannot afford to buy the prescriptions they need. how outrageous is that? and my republican colleagues are telling us that dealing with health care reform without mentioning one word about the high costs of prescription drugs? give me a break. you're dealing with many things, but you're not dealing with health care reform. but again, it's not just the
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pharmaceutical companies that are making huge profits. you are seeing executives from these large drug companies making outrageous compensation. in fact, in 2015, the top ten pharmaceutical industry c.e.o.'s made $327 million in total compensation. elderly people talk into the drug store, can't afford the prescription drugs they need, and yet you had c.e.o.'s of major drug companies making $327 million in total compensation. former c.e.o. of gilead, john martin, became a billionaire because his drug company charged $1,000 a pill for civaldi, a hepatitis-c drug that costs $1 to manufacture and can be bought in india today for just $4.
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in this country, sold for $1,000 a pill. and he became a billionaire as a result of that. that is a health care system out of control. and again, our job -- i know it's a c.d. idea here in the united states senate, but maybe, just maybe, we might want to represent the american people and not the sea's of the drug companies and the insurance companies. mr. president -- madam president, some of my republican colleagues have been spending the last few days using words like freedom, choice, and opportunity to try to convince the american people about their abysmal health care legislation. this is the same language that right-wing ideologues like the billionaire koch brothers use when they try to discredit
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government programs and move to privatize them. what the koch brothers mean by freedom is their own freedom. and by the way, they are the second wealthiest family in america, worth some $80 billion. what they mean by freedom is their own freedom to profit off the misery of ordinary americans who rely on a wide variety of government programs that make life bearable and in some cases even possible. now, i want to say a word about freedom. madam president, this is a 203-foot yacht. this is a yacht owned by a billionaire that costs about
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$90 million to purchase. now, while -- like everybody else i think in this chamber, i think the american people, every american should have the freedom to purchase that $90 million yacht. and i would urge all americans, go to the internet, find out where the yacht stores are, wherever they sell yachts, and you go out there and you say, hey, i want the freedom to buy this $90 million yacht. you all believe in that. if you have the money, you buy it. madam president, here is a picture of a collapsing home. and this home is worth tens and tens of millions of dollars.
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it looks to me like it has 30 or 40 or 50 rooms. probably five or ten bathrooms. it's really a nice house. and it is owned by a billionaire. you know, i think every american who wants to own a home worth tens and tens of millions of dollars, go to your local realtor, you go out and you buy that home. but, madam president, what we are talking about today in terms of freedom is not freedom to buy a yacht or freedom to buy a mansion. we are talking about the freedom to stay alive, the freedom to be able to go to the doctor when you are sick, the freedom not to go bankrupt if you end up in the hospital with a serious disease. so when my republican friends talk about freedom of choice, we
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all agree. if you've got the money, you go out and buy any big house you want, buy any big yacht you want. but where there is a serious disagreement is we say that the children of this country who have serious illnesses have the freedom to stay alive even if their parents do not have a lot of money. that older people who are now in nursing homes should have the freedom to get dignified care in a nursing home even if they have alzheimer's and even if they don't have a lot of money. health care is not another commodity. health care is not a mansion. health care is not a yacht. health care is whether we stay alive or whether we don't. whether we ease our suffering or whether we don't. and i believe, unlike, unfortunately, many of my republicans, that that right to get health care when you need it is something that every american
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should be able to get. here in the senate, we have good health insurance, and over the last ten years, a number of senators have had serious illnesses. they have gotten some of the best care in the world. if it's good for the united states senate, it is good for every american. health care must be a right of all people, not a privilege. quality care must be available to all, not just the wealthy. mr. daines is going to come down here in a while, senator daines, to offer a medicare for all proposal. again, i hope that this is a breakthrough. i hope that our republican colleagues understand that we have got to join the rest of the industrialized world. and if senator daines comes down here and is prepared to vote for that legislation, prepared to get his other republican senators prepared to vote for that legislation, my god, we can
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win this vote overwhelmingly and move this country in a very different direction. but, madam president, i have a feeling that that is not what senator daines has in mind. i think this is another joke, another game, another sham as part of a horrendous overall process. so i will not be supporting that amendment unless senator daines and republicans vote for it as well. but this i will do. in this debate, and i hope i have the opportunity or in the very near future, i will offer, i will offer a medicare for all single-payer program which finally has the united states doing what every other major country on earth does, guarantee health care to every man, woman, and child in a cost-effective way. and when we do that and when we eliminate the need for families to spend $15,000 or $20,000 a year for health insurance, we will save the average
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middle-class family substantial sums of money. with that, madam president, i would yield the floor. mr. moran: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: i have five requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have been approved by the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. moran: madam president, i come to speak about health care, and i begin by paying tribute to our colleague from arizona, senator mccain, on his return earlier this week, and i wish him the very best as he begins a process of cure and treatment and a bright future in his life. i appreciate the remarks that he indicated that were so heartfelt to his colleagues here in the
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united states senate, and we welcome him back and thank him for his service to the united states senate, to the people of arizona, to the people of america, but i also thank him most especially for his service in the united states military. another great hero in my life and in our country's history is my predecessor in the united states senate, senator bob dole, who earlier this week celebrated his 94th birthday. service to kd all americans exemidentify bob dole's life. while i admire him for his time in the united states senate, i respect him even more so for his service to our country during world war ii and for his efforts ever since then to care for those who have come into harm's way as a result of their service. i often see him at the world war ii memorial when there's an honor flight from kansas or across the country, and he is
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such a role model for so many people. again, i admire him for his commitment to other veterans and making certain veterans receive the care and the gratitude that they deserve. one of the most important ways that we can demonstrate that we honor those who served our country is by making certain that we live up to our commitment, the commitment that was made to them for the benefits that they deserve, including access to timely and quality health care. unfortunately today we find ourselves in another crisis moment in regard to veterans' health care, and in particular the veterans choice program which was designated to provide access to veterans who were in danger of an inability to access that care because either the v.a. didn't provide the service, couldn't provide it in a timely manner, or that service was so far from where the veteran he or
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she lived that they were unable to attain that service because of distance. so in 2014, this congress pass passed, the president then signed what's been labeled the choice act. it came about in the wake of a scandal, particularly in phoenix but across the country in which we saw fake waiting lists and the belief that there were veterans who died as a result of not obtaining the care that they were entitled to in the v.a. system. the choice program has helped thousands, thousands of veterans across the country and especially those in usually communities where distance remains a problem. i've heard from many veterans in my state how important the choice program is to them, and instead of driving for four hours to see a physician at the v.a., they can drive four minutes to see a physician in their hometown. this choice program was set to
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expire on august 7 of this year. just a few days from now it was scheduled to come to an end. at the start of 2017, the v.a. estimated there would be more than a billion dollars remaining in the choice account that the v.a. told us would last until january 2018. republican let those funds expand, i join senator mccain, senator isakson, senator tester and others in a choice extension bill to remove that august 7 deadline and sunset the program until the funds expired which, as i said, was believed to be in january of 2018. the president signed that bill on april 19, but less than six weeks later we learned from the v.a. that the v.a. had made misfortunate calculations and as
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a result of poor budgeting and finance, the dollars for the choice program were not going to last until january but are soon toax pair, just within the -- to expire, just within the next few days. demand for the choice program was up 30% to 40%. it's clear by that increase in demand that veterans needed choice, that they liked choice, that it's working for them. and we now owe it to those veterans to make sure that that choice program continues and that the funds are available to accomplish that goal. with choice the funds that they had anticipated that would last until january now will run out sometime in august. we think in the next couple of weeks. those depleted funds will mean that kansas veterans and veterans across the country who have been using the choice program will no longer be able to and it means those that could use the choice program into the
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future will be without that option. we run the real risk -- the likelihood is almost a certainty that the choice program will be discontinued in a matter of days. when i learned the budget miscalculations, i chaired the subcommittee that funds the department of veterans affairs and we immediately contacted the secretary of the department to get his understanding of the circumstance that we were in. we only learned of the shortfall after we learned that veterans at home were being denied access to the choice program. the secretary had made a decision to reduce those veterans who are eligible and we ask him to withdraw that guidance to his regional officers across the country, and he did. however, when the secretary then testified before our subcommittee, the subcommittee
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on military construction and veterans and related agencies, we learned that new guidance had been issued because of the fear of depleting those dollars. it again limited access to veterans for the choice program. we now hear of veterans forced to drive hours to get appointments at v.a. facilities when just two weeks ago they were receiving those -- that care in their hometowns in their neighborhoods, nearby opportunities that no longer exist. they recognized that their projections in budgeting were off and must be fixed. i hope that turns out to be the result and that we have better ability at the department of veterans affairs to make calculations necessary for congress and the department to make wise decisions.
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the system has to fixed and it has to be fixed quickly. there's an immediate crisis. one of the things that now happens as a result of reduced use of choice is the networks that were created to support choice, the third-party administrators of the choice program because of lack of volume no longer are financially viable to stay in the business of being the network to connect the v.a., the private sector, and the veterans in a way that cares for those veterans, gets them their appointments, and establishes the payment process by which the provider, the physician, or the hospital is paid. now this is not just a circumstance in which the third-party administrators can leave the business and return if we get our work done here and the v.a. choice program is refunded. those networks will disappear and we will not be able to
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easily restart the choice program. so if we don't make a fix shortly today, tomorrow, by the weekend, if we do not pass legislation in a timely fashion, it's not like we can come back in september and say, okay, let's appropriate the money now and choice can restart. it will not happen. choice will be gone. there are big consequences at play for the future of community care. the funding crisis and inability to sustain choice risk shutting down, shuttering the entire networks, and it will diminish the faith that veterans and our providers were slowly beginning to have in the choice program. early in the choice program many veterans were discouraged because of the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with choice. providers weren't often paid in a timely fashion and they became discouraged by the program. and in recent months, that
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confidence in the program had returned. veterans were beginning to get their care at home. providers were being paid for the services they provide veterans. and now if the third-party administrators, the network goes away, we will send one more message to veterans and to those who wish to serve them the health care community, that the program is not a viable or valuable one. fortunately both the house and senate have been working to fix this situation. since june my colleagues on the senate veterans affairs committee have joined me in working to find a solution that protects access to community care for veterans. the choice program is funded by mandatory spending. we have also been working with the house as they've tried to develop a solution that maintains choice and is fiscally responsible. there's a lot of back and forth, a lot of conversations, a lot of talk, and a lot of negotiations going o. and i support the
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efforts of our chairman and ranking members of the veterans affairs committee both in the house and senate who are trying to work on an agreement to come together for our nation's veterans. i would hope and i expect that a bill will come from the house yet this week. my point to my colleagues here today is that we do not have the luxury of then trying to figure out something different to do than what the house sends it. we need -- sends us. we need to have our plan if place and we need to have something that can pass both the house and senate in the next two days. i want to motivate my colleagues to do what is right for veterans and set aside the differences that have prevented the necessary cooperation to see that we have one bill that can pass both the house and senate and save choice. i stood here in 2014 to implore my colleagues to support the passage of the choice act in the first place, and i stand here again today to implore my colleagues to come together and
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support passage of this critical funding for the continuation of the choice program and community care for veterans. i'm here to make sure that we end the delays and find a way to have understand the differences and accept that we must act quickly on behalf of veterans. it has to happen immediately. we owe our veterans better than what we've been providing them. i'm once again partnering with my colleague, the senator honored in my opening comment, senator mccain, and others to introduce legislation that will put funds back into the choice program making certain our veterans do not experience a lapse of care at home or termination of the program. we are working hard with our colleagues across the aisle and the house to determine the future of this program and what community care will look like. while we work to create that system to serve future generations of veterans for years to come, how we make choice better, we cannot allow
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the program to expire at this critical point in time. taking care of veterans must be a priority above any one specific ask or must have in the funding. not acting is not an option. senator mccain's words upon his return to the senate remind us of the importance of this task and many others before us. i'm honored to work with him on this effort to save choice and to serve our veterans. i ask my colleagues to help us, help us save this important program that benefits rural and urban veterans, that makes care more timely, that provides care in the circumstances in which the v.a. does not have the capabilities either in a timely or quality fashion to provide the services to veterans. this doesn't diminish the role or necessity of the department of veterans affairs or their hospitals or clinics across the country. veterans continue to use a v.a. hospital, continue to use our
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outpatient clinics, but we ought not allow the elimination of the third opportunity for veterans care, the choice program that serves so many veterans in so many communities. again, i thank senator mccain for his leadership and his bipartisan work, ocialgly created -- originally created this program, this opportunity -- we seek a bipartisan to put veterans first and to put their health care access above everything else. i'm urging my colleagues today to know this issue exists, not to walk away from it, make certain we accomplish our goals that this critical funding be provided before we depart for the weekend. preserving this important benefit honors our heroes. senator dole, senator mccain, and the thousands of americans who didn't ask about whether it was republican to serve the country or democrat to serve the country, who believe that serving their country is what
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motivated them-to-to see that their families were safe and secure, to see that america had a bright future. we ought not deny them that kind of service today. madam president, i thank you for the opportunity to address the senate. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i come to the floor today to pass the wounded officers recovery act. this legislation comes after last month's terrible shooting at the republican practice for the annual congressional baseball game. as many of you already know, capital police special acts crystal greider and david bailey were wounded in the line of duty as they successfully fought off and subdued the gunman. i witnessed firsthand the unbelievable bravery and heroism of the capitol police on that morning. it is not at all an exaggeration
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to say that if not for their actions, i probably would not be here today. so anyself and my colleagues -- so myself and my colleagues certainly have a special place in our hearts for them and an appreciation for what they did on that fateful morning. it's a privilege to be able to help them out now. they had our backs. now we need to have theirs. this bill amends the policies of the united states capitol police memorial fund, to expand eligibility, to include any u.s. capitol police employee who has been injured in the line of duty. this will enable special agents griner and bailey to raise funds for the victims of the congressional baseball practice shooting. previously the fund only allowed donated funds to be given to the families of officers killed in the line of duty. i'm hopeful that all of might colleagues will agree to this issue should rise above any
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partisan wrangling. special agents crystal greiner and david bailey have our gratitude and we ought to be able to help them. i'm grateful for their sacrifice. i hope we can speak with one voice in support of the brave men and women of the capitol police and pass this bill without delay. i want to thank the cosponsors here in the senate, senator paul, senator donnelly, senator murphy, all of those who played in the congressional baseball game. also in the house, the managers of the republican and democratic teams respectively, joe barton and mike dwell. this is one of the best institutions in congress, one of the most bipartisan institutions, this congressional baseball game. we're able to raise a lot of money for needy causes and also for the capitol police. we want to make sure a lot of the money that was raised this year, that a portion of that money can go to these deserving individuals who helped us out and in a very real way saved our
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lives. i ask unanimous consent that the committee on rules be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 3298, and that the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 3298, an act to authorize the capitol police board to make payments from the united states capitol police memorial fund to employees of the united states capitol police who sustained serious line of duty injuries and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. the committee is discharged. and the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent that the flake amendment at the desk be considered agreed and that the bill be amended and considered and read a third time and passed and that the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table.
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the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. murray: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, i want all my colleagues and everyone listening right now to be very clear about what republican leadership is planning for today. faced with defeat after defeat on their plans to rip apart our health care system, no on a bill that would spike families' premiums, gut medicaid and deny 22 million people health care, no on a bill that would cause chaos and health care costs to skyrocket and deny 32 million people health care, it appears that the republican leader has a last-ditch plan waiting in the wings. as soon as they have an official score from the c.b.o., which
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could be hours from now, in the dead of night, senator mcconnell will bring forward legislation that democrats, patients and families, and even many senate republicans have not seen and try to pass it before anyone can so much as blink. now, madam president, we have heard rumors about what could be in this bill, and based on what we know, democrats took it upon ourselves to do the best we could to figure out what its impact will be. the c.b.o. scored our best guess at what republicans are talking about doing, and here is what they found. 16 million people will lose their health care coverage in the next ten years under this bill. premiums will increase by 20% every single year for the next ten years. your premiums will increase 20%
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every single year in the next ten years. all while special interests in the health industry are going to get a massive tax break. now, republicans could still play games with the language as they negotiate now in secret somewhere to try to get a bid, quote, better than this, but no matter what they do here, if they jam it through, they will be held accountable for the millions of people who lose care and the millions and millions more who will see their premiums go up. madam president, i hope when my senate republican colleagues began -- -- began this process they were not planning to pass a bill in the dark of night to deny millions of people health care and hand special interests billions in tax breaks. right now, that's the path that
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they are careening down. even as more and more people are speaking up about what the impact of this legislation would have. in fact, just yesterday, a bipartisan group of ten governors wrote a letter urging senate republicans to reject this secret bill, saying it would, quote -- and i am quoting ten bipartisan governors -- accelerate health plans leaving the individual market increased premiums and result in fewer americans having access to coverage. i hope every single senate republican read that letter, madam president. and i also hope they understand that if they pass this bill tonight, it will only get worse from here. if this secret bill, this lowest common denominator, goes through
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any conference that starts with the house, then every senate republican who voted for it has just bought trumpcare a trip to the white house. and the senate republicans who so loudly made clear they hated the trumpcare bill when it passed the house could now very well find themselves being held responsible for sending that same bill straight to president trump's desk. because let's be honest. extreme conservatives aren't going to rest until they have a bill on the way to the white house that would spike premiums and out-of-pocket costs, gut protections for preexisting conditions, end medicaid as we know it, defund planned parenthood, and kick tens of millions of people off their coverage. a bill that would in other words shatter the promises of more responsible republicans who i
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know are deeply concerned about ways these outcomes would impact the people that they serve. so, madam president, to put it simply, in conference is no excuse to kick people off coverage, spike the premiums by 20% for everyone and give a massive tax break to the wealthy, especially because it will simply be an opportunity to hand the keys over to the house freedom caucus. madam president, i want to remind any senate republican who doesn't want to have trumpcare on their hands, who truly does want to make our health care system work better for patients and families, there is a better path. as senator mccain said so powerfully earlier this week, we shouldn't let the, quote, bombastic loudmouths drive our work. we should get back to regular order. and, madam president, we still can. i'm saying it to every senate
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republican every chance i get. drop this partisan sham floor process. drop it. start over with an open, transparent process in which both sides and patients and families across the country have a voice. i know that as big as our differences are, that many of my republican colleagues would prefer that bipartisan voice and route. they have said as much. and their votes to reject the partisan trumpcare and full repeal bills this week made it even clearer. so let's have hearings like chairman alexander has proposed to do in our help committee. let's have a public debate. let's focus on policies that lower costs, that expand coverage, and improve quality. democrats are ready. we are at the table, and i hope that senate republicans who are ready to work on real solutions will join us. but first, for that to happen,
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senate republicans need to step away from this sham process we are on today. say no, vote no, and return us to a process we're all involved in. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. mr. sasse: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mr. sasse: madam president, in the fall of 2015, when i first spoke here on the senate floor, i gave nebraska scans and every -- nebraskans and every member of this body my word that i would speak up when a president exceeded his or her powers. at that moment, the democratic power had taken for himself powers that the constitution had not given him. my opposition was not that president obama was a democrat, but rather that our brilliant constitution intentionally separates executive and legislative powers. i gave my promise then because, despite the lazy partisan rhetoric of this city, not everything is actually a blood
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feud between republicans and democrats. that's because american politics at our best are acutely aware of the difference between justice and strength. that's because when our body is working well here in the senate, we take seriously our history, our duties, and our unique place in the constitution's architecture of separate powers, both vertically and horizontally. in 2014, the u.s. supreme court ruled that the obama administration had made unconstitutional appointments when it declared this body to be in recess when the u.s. senate was not in fact in recess, and it functionally claimed power. that is, the administration functionally claimed power that belonged to the senate under our constitution. so today, i have come to the floor to keep my promise and to offer a word of humble advice to the president. if you're thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it.
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the presidency isn't a bull, and this country isn't a china shop. mr. president, you're a public servant. in a system of limited government with the duty to uphold and to defend and to teach to our kids the constitution system of checks and balances. and this, this is the world's greatest experiment in self-government. it works only if all of us, presidents, senators, republicans, democrats, independents, and judges, if we all keep our faith to the american institutions and to the rule of law. our oath is not to popularity, it's not to polls, it's not to political parties. our oath is to the constitution and to the rule of law. our duty is to the american people, the men and women who elected us, the men and women who came before us, and especially the men and women who will come after us in this
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greatest of experiments in self-government. madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the remarks to follow would appear at a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sasse: madam president, on a separate note, with respect to the health care debate that we are having in this body, while i obviously looked forward to taking seriously in considering any and all amendments offered by my colleagues, both republicans and democrats, the basic trajectory of where we are in health care has not changed. we should all be disappointed by where we are. here's what i mean. it is very likely that in the coming decade, basic math is going to force americans and those who will serve them in this and other institutions of government are going to be forced to choose between two paths. this isn't that hard to see. we are ultimately going to choose between single-payer socialized medicine, something i
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think is terrible policy but is intellectually coherent, or we are going to actively build the innovative disruptive system of consumer-based health insurance that actually goes with consumers and patients and americans and taxpayers across job and geographic change. we're ultimately going to make a choice. sadly, this has been a missed opportunity. we're not making the big choice now. we're making a choice between a couple of small options. we have forks in front of us that are, i think, dissatisfying to almost everyone. i have one constituent at home who also happens to be my wife, who when she checks in on the processes of washington, she regularly says both of your political parties are so gross. she is dissatisfied like so many of the constituents i think that call us and come to our offices with the fact that we're not debating the real stuff around here. we're making a choice between two small pretty crappy options when really the big choice that's in front of us when we
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have health entitlements which dwarf everything else on the federal budget, the two choices before us aren't really that hard to see. we're ultimately going to migrate toward a european-style single-payer system where government will be more effective at controlling costs but it will do it by crowding out lots and lots of the private sector, we're either going to have single-payer health care or eventually we're going to create a system where you have portable, affordable insurance. we have none of those things today. we have no portability today. you can't take your insurance policy with you across job and geographic change. when i change jobs, i don't lose my life insurance. i don't have to cancel my car insurance because i changed jobs. but we're still living on a system that launders our insurance, which is really mostly the collective prepayment of mostly predictable medical expenses, we launder it through a tax accident of the 1940's. you have to do it through your
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large employer group. you can't do it in the spall market or as an individual. so we don't have portability and we all know we need portability. we did this 30 years ago in pensions. we used to also launder through a tax accident where people were presumed to work at one firm for their whole career, they lad a defined benefit pension plan. it worked when you worked at the same place from high school graduation until retirement. it doesn't work. so we did the hard work of reforming a pension system from defined benefit to a defined contribution tax protected portable 401(k) plan. obviously we all know that if we're not going to end up at socialized medicine, we should have portability in our health insurance benefits. we should have farmers and ranchers an in the presiding officer's state or my state able to keep their insurance that they usually have to buy through the individual market. or we need the gig economy mobile workers who are going to change jobbers even faster every
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four years to not become insured four to six months every fourth year when they change jobs. that's the number one driver of uninsurance today. to listen to pundits screaming on tv, you would think somehow there are so many sicker or so many poorer americans and that's why we've had arcing on insurance since 1990. but it's not true. we don't have more poor people and we don't have more sick people. uninsurance went up from 1990 until 2009 because we changed jobs more rapidly. and every four years when you change jobs, if you have a four to six-month period of uninsurance, that's when you get the breast cancer diagnosis or probably listically that might be when you get in a car accident and now you become the preexisting conditions population of five and ten and 15 years from today. this isn't rocket science. uninsurance is growing in america over the last 25 years because we change jobs more and we have a stupid, clunky system from 60 years ago that we still
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launder through a tax -- we should have portability, affordability. we should have a real debate in this body about why so many -- by the way, i've been critical, lots of my party, for not having a good plan for replace but i would say to those on the other side of the aisle, the affordable care act is an absurdly or wel orwellian name a piece of legislation that those in this body voted for seven years ago told the american people, you all did a press conference at the white house and said premiums would fall $2,500 per family of four. they've risen $3,200 on average per family of four. so you're -- your plus or minus sign was off to the tune of $5,700 per american family. in my state and the presiding officer's state, you have lots of farming families in counties where there's only one insurer where premiums are north of $20,000 a year for the insurance market. stop pretending this is in any
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way affordable. what we have is a system where the assumption is because the system is so broken, the only way anybody could ever get help financing and help financing is the means to getting help to the health deliver r delivery system is everyone should be on welfare. that doesn't work. we should have a welfare safety net for the poorest and sickest among us. we all in this body should be accountable for passing a piece of legislation that delivers a system where lower and middle class and middle class and upper middle class americans can afford their own health insurance. not everybody in america needs to be on welfare. and not everybody in america wants to be on welfare. so our system is not afford am. it's not portable. and fundamentally it's not really insurance. we have a system that is mostly about the collective prepayment of all medical expenses. we don't do this in any other sector of the economy. think how absurd it would be for us to pass along this body
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mandating that all state and state farm have to buy all your gas and schedule all your jiffy lube appointments. that's what we're trying to do in health care. guess what? we can guess what it will look like. jiffy lube will be open at the wrong hours, at the wong locations. we won't know what services they will deliver. it will probably grow at two, two and a half times inflationary or g.d.p. growth just like health care. we are trying to hyper regulate and micromanage all of the largest sector of the u.s. economy from here by pretending we're talking about insurance. we're not. what this body and what the congress and what washington, d.c. have wanted to do for years is run every decision in health care but not tell the american people the truth, that it turns out that's really expensive. nobody comes to the floor and advocates -- maybe bernie does. maybe senator sanders comes to the floor and honestly advocates for raising taxes to the level of all the micromanagement of the health sector that people in this body want to do. but what most people want to do, and it isn't just your side of
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the aisle. turns out it might be a lot of people on my side of the aisle as well, would like to have so much control over the health care sector but not admit how expensive it is that we'll do it by regulations on the financing model so you can hide it under the word insurance. most of what's happening in american health care isn't insurance. insurance is insulating people from catastrophic loss, from nonbehaviorally driven, unpredictable events. everybody in this body wants every american to have health insurance. everybody in this body should also want a health delivery system where the average american people living on middle class wages can afford to buy their health care without potentially going broke or needing to become a ward of the state in the form of welfare. we should be having that debate. we should have a debate about portable insurance, about affordable insurance vary sis socialized med -- versus socialized medicine. people who want to advocate for it have a coherent position.
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that's the debate we should be having. instead we'll kick the can down the road. this is a lost opportunity for the american people. and it kind of makes a sham of the joke that this is the greatest deliberative body on the face of the earth. i live in a little farm town in nebraska. there are ten not for-profit boards in my town that deliberate a heck of a lot better than we deliberate in this body. we can and should do better. thank you, madam president. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: madam president, the first three words of our constitution are we the people. and indeed our entire system was set up to be a government that produces results of, by, and for the people. but certainly right now this is not what we're getting. we're getting a secret plan that has not yet been put on this floor with the promise there will be a debate in the middle of the night. no chance for a committee hearing on it. no chance to consult with experts. no chance for us to go home and talk to our constituents. this is about as far away from a
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deliberative democratic republic as you can possibly get. it makes us think of 1787 when ben franklin came out of the constitutional convention, and he was stopped by someone in the crowd and they were -- he was asked, what do we have? a monarchy or republic? and he answered, a republic if you can keep it. well, we're not keeping it right now through this secret middle of the night nonconsultative process. we are disgracing the notion that our founders fought for, we the people republic. and this is something that touches so many americans. we're not talking about the weight limit on a highway. we're not talking about what kinds of signs to post. we're talking about fundamental access to health care. and if the rumors are right, my colleagues plan to bring forward a bill that will blow up insurance on the exchange for millions of americans.
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well, insurance pool -- an insurance pool is a situation that's a little bit like a swieming pool -- swimming pool. you tear a hole in the side of the swimming pool and the water drains out and there's only a few inches left, only people who would bother to go into that depleted swimming pool would be those who really, really want to swim. and it's the same with the health care pool. and the bill coming out tonight we're told will rip a big hole in the side of the insurance pool. and it will do so in a fashion that means only those who have preexisting conditions, only those who are sick, only those who are old will truly try to get that insurance, and that means the price will be driven up and many of them can't afford it so they'll drop out. so it means the pool will have even more people who are sick and older. this is the death spiral. so my colleagues today are planning to put forward a bill tonight, we are told, that creates a death spiral in insurance. who pays the price? who pays the price?
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our nation pays the price with an estimated 16 million people who would lose insurance. we are talking about those who have every desire to have the peace of mind that if their loved one gets sick, they'll get the care they need. we're talking about americans who have a desire to know that if their loved one gets injured, that they won't end up bankrupt. but all of that is at risk tonight. a few moments ago my colleague from nebraska came to the floor and he started out by saying we need to ensure that the president doesn't overstep his powers. well, let's talk, too, about this senate not destroying its procedures designed to ensure a we the people republic which means we should all vote to send whatever bill comes out tonight to committee, to committee with it can be duly considered in a bipartisan fashion with experts, with consultation. in fact, my colleague from arizona who came back and gave a dramatic and beautiful speech
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just two days ago, he said this. he said it should be considered by committee. let's work together to take whatever plan comes out tonight and put it where it needs to be in committee for due deliberation. this issue touches too many lives. it's too core to the quality of life of our fellow americans. let us not allow any bill to pass out of this chamber that would do so much destruction. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. a senator: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, the senate is in its third day of voting on major health care legislation. mr. udall: we still have no idea exactly what the republican leadership wants, what bill they're going to put on the floor. republican leadership tosses out options, bills that would affect the lives of millions of
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americans and one-sixth of our economy, not even republicans know what proposal is coming next. and the american public certainly doesn't know what's coming. and they're very, very interested because they have health care and they want to know if it's going to be taken away from them. it's like the republicans are playing health care roulette. the leader spins the roulette wheel. the ball lands arbitrarily on sma version of a.c.a. repeal and the leader quickly calls a quick vote on that random version of a.c.a. repeal. soon we're going to vote on a cynical amendment from the republicans offering medicare for all. my understanding the senator offering this isn't even going to support his own amendment. if you were in a state legislature, you'd be prohibited from offering an amendment like that. they oppose this medicare for all amendment. they oppose medicare for all.
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so why are they seeking a vote? to distract from their own dangerous bills and reckless process. it's a desperate ploy and everyone sees through it. i support health care for all. it should be a right in this nation, but this is a phony and insincere amendment and all the while the president stands to the side not caring one wit what the bills looks like or how many people will be hurt in the rush to get a bill out the senate door. on tuesday we voted on the leadership's better care reconciliation act 2.0. that would cut 22 million americans off health care. it also has been rejected overwhelmingly by americans. yesterday we voted on straight a.c.a. repeal, not replacement. that bill would throw 32 million americans off health care. that idea is no more popular than the other bills.
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today maybe we will vote on a last-ditch version that would repeal parts of obamacare, the so-called skinny repeal option. that bill is no better. it would mean 16 million americans get thrown off health care and the other really important part of this, it would raise premiums 20%. so we've heard, like our friend from nebraska come down here on the floor, talk about their concern about health care and concern about the cost of premiums. they ought to know that this proposal is going to raise premiums 20%. this bill is the republicans' last hope. it takes away the individual mandate to get health insurance. and the employer mandate to provide health insurance to employees. like the other schemes the republicans have tried, it would hike premiums for the elderly and for the sick. blue cross blue shield is opposed to this proposal.
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it says there, and i quote what they say, they have said strong incentives for people to obtain health insurance and keep it year round. that's what they are looking for. that's what is in current law. we have the republicans wanting to take that out. there must be affordable care act cost-sharing provisions for consumers. otherwise, there will be -- and this is the blue cross blue shield again -- steep premium increases and diminished choices that would make coverage unaffordable and inaccessible, end quote. like the other schemes, this won't ensure more americans will have health care. it means many fewer will. it doesn't decrease health care costs. it increases health care costs. even worse, there have been no committee hearings, no public input on this or any of the other investigators of a.c.a.
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repeal the republican roulette wall has landed on. my office has received, just to give you a sample of the public feeling on this issue, which is i am seeing it across new mexico. my office has received 14,500 calls, e-mails, letters, rejecting the republican plans, an unprecedented number from the small state of new mexico. i agree with senator mccain, we must go back to the regular order. we must stop this gamesmanship. we need to work together on a solution to improve the affordable care act by bringing down costs, making it easier for small businesses to provide health care, and especially for making prescription drugs more affordable. by not denying new mexico families and millions more access to quality health care. the republicans are playing with people's lives, making sure
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severely disabled children have health care through medicaid is not a game. neither is kicking elderly grandparents out of their medicaid-funded nursing homes or enabling women to get breast and cervical cancer screenings from planned parenthood. it's hard to keep up with the republican investigators, 2.0, 3.0, 4.5, 5.0 of the affordable care act repeal, but every bill is consistent that it cuts care for millions of americans. the republicans keep proposing so-called health care bills that are not actual health care bills. the real health care bill would protect gains made, cover more people, and make health insurance more affordable, but the republican bills do none of these things. their bills reverse the gains, cover millions fewer people and make health insurance less affordable, especially for those most vulnerable.
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the american people want everyone to have affordable health care. that must be our goal. republicans and democrats should be working hard right now to get us to that national goal. i have shared the stories of new mexicans who have lives that have been changed and even saved because of the affordable care act. new mexicans like mike from placitas. mike had an aggressive cancer but was diagnosed early thanks to the affordable care act and doctors saved his life. and alexis from albuquerque who had a stroke and brain surgeries when she was 28. she had affordable health insurance under the a.c.a., and those subsidies helped her keep health insurance and get health care coverage. and elena who was able to offer a lifesaving mastectomy because of medicaid expansion. these are real people who are now jeopardized by the republicans' bills and republican proposals, and there
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are thousands more across new mexico and millions across the country who are crying out for the republican majority to change this reckless and dangerous scheme. i yield the floor. mr. president, my colleague from new mexico, senator heinrich, is here who has been a real champion in terms of fighting for working families and for their health care. i yield to senator heinrich. mr. heinrich: i would ask unanimous consent to speak for up to five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. heinrich: for over seven years, republicans in washington have cheered shortcomings in our health care system and blamed the affordable care act for every problem under the premise that they would do so much better if just put in charge. repealing the law made for great bumper stickers, great campaign promises, but the trouble is that their opposition to the a.c.a. has always been more about politics than it ever was about actual policy, or for that
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matter, plans to do better for the american people. this shockingly rushed but secretive effort on display this week in the senate is only further evidence that president trump and republicans in congress don't have any real solutions to improve our nation's health care system. after months, months of negotiations behind closed doors, senate republicans released their secret trumpcare bill. its contents prove too harmful for passage, even among themselves. now stuck without a path forward, their latest idea is to pass a small back-room deal before sundown today, which no one has seen yet. to then go to conference with the tea party and the freedom caucus in the house of representatives. while we still don't know what we will be voting on, we know that the so-called skinny repeal bill would mean higher premiums,
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and millions of americans losing their health care coverage. not to mention deep cuts that would dismantle the medicaid program as it currently exists. and throw millions of americans off their health care coverage and put our entire health care system into chaos. all to give a massive tax break to the wealthiest among us. that is just awful policy any way you look at it. since january, i have heard from literally thousands of new mexicans who have told me how important their health care coverage is to them and to their families. what answers do president trump and republicans here in congress have for the grandmother in santa fe who wonders where she will go when her nursing home closes because of medicaid cuts? or the woman in albuquerque who wrote to me about how scared she is about losing access to mental health care for her depression and anxiety.
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what are they going to sell the single mother in rio rancho who relies on medicaid to cover her children's medical costs or the young man in espanola who needs treatment to get clean from opioid addiction? these new mexicans and unless of other americans will be harmed if this bill becomes law. look, i'm not outraged by all of this because i'm a democrat or what i think of president trump. i'm outraged about this bill because of what it will do to my constituents in new mexico, and i will do everything i can to oppose this appalling legislation and this appalling process and to fight to keep quality health care accessible and affordable for new mexicans. if we can just halt this mad rush, we could all work, republicans and democrats, to get to the things that we agree
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need fixing in our system, and there is much work to be done there, no doubt about it. as senator mccain told us all yesterday, we have been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. there is a better way forward. we can come together and work on the things that we know need to be fixed in the a.c.a. people's lives hang in the balance, and there are real bipartisan solutions if we can get back to regular order. i want to thank my colleague from new mexico for his incredible leadership in this debate, and say how hard we are going to work to make sure that we keep fighting for our constituents in new mexico on this health care legislation. thank you, mr. president.
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mr. bennet: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. bennet: i am aware the time is at an end. i wonder if i could ask unanimous consent for seven additional minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. bennet: thank you, mr. president. i would like to thank my colleagues from new mexico, my neighbors, for being here. i also want to thank the presiding officer for your statement. as usual, you are pointing the senate in a direction that we should be headed. whether people in my state support the affordable care act or whether they don't, they are dissatisfied with the way our health care system works, and the affordable care act or obamacare or whatever you want to call it, that's just part of our health care system. we have medicare, we have medicaid, we have hospitals, we have doctors, we have nurses, and it all adds up in america in the 21st century to a system that is really hard on people.
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and makes it very hard for them to predict their future, and it creates situations where they have to make choices that no other people in the industrialized world have to make, about raising their family, about staying in a job as the presiding officer was talking about, that they might not want to stay in for fear they would lose their health insurance. i thought you made an excellent point. i thought the presiding officer made an excellent point when he said that you don't lose your car insurance when you leave your place of business for another job. why should you lose your health insurance? why should you? why should you? you have to put up with things in this country that nobody else in the industrialized world has to put up with. and it may be that the debate that we're going to have is as by nary as the presiding -- as binary as the presiding officer was saying. maybe it was single payer, maybe what he described as consumer
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based. america is trying to figure those things out, or at least we have historically. my other colleague from oregon earlier quoted the famous line when somebody yelled out to ben franklin what kind of government are you creating, a monarchy or a republic? that was the question. his answer, as the senator from oregon said, was a republic, if you can keep it. if you can keep it. because the founders had extraordinary vision, and they were creating something that had never existed before in the history of humankind, never existed. you could make an argument, a couple of small principalities or places in switzerland, there would be some argument about ancient rome, but really, this exercise in self-government sprung from their imagination and their desire as human beings
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to govern themselves, to slough off the monarchy that ruled them and ruled others in europe. but what ben franklin said was so important and so wise, because he didn't say a republic. he said a republic if you can keep it. they were creating when they wrote the constitution a mechanism for the american people to resolve their disputes. they were not creating a republic where they believed that everyone would agree with each other. they had vast disagreements. they had disagreements far greater than the ones we have. they had geographic disagreements. they had disagreements about big states and little states. they had disagreements about
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slavery. but they were able to come together and create a mechanism to resolve our differences. they didn't believe, as some people seem to on talk radio every day, that if you don't agree with the other person, that you must be a communist or you must be some right-winger. that's not what they believe. they believe there was a public purpose, that there was public virtue that underlay the work that they were trying to do, and that we would only be able to persist in this republic if we kept it. if we kept it. that's how self-government worked. it's not a king telling you what to do. it's not the generation of the founders telling you what to do. it's doing what you need to do. and as the presiding officer
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said, for the sake of people who did their jobs before us, but more important, as he said, for the people that are coming after us. and seen from this perspective, this process is a disgrace. this is why we have a 9% approval rating in the united states senate. what's been referred to in past generations as the greatest deliberative body in the world. those words are spoken mockingly today. and the people i represent, and the people the presiding officer represents are paying a price for this. somebody asked me back -- it's been a long time since i have been in the majority, i'm sad to say, but it's true, but there was a time when i would preside
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like the presiding officer is doing today. a reporter asked me once what do you think about when you're up there, because as john mccain said the other day, we aren't doing anything here. he's right. we're not. so the reporter said what are you thinking about? you know what i told him? i said what i think about is what is china doing right now? while democrats and republicans have their fight that has nothing to do with the people we represent. well, we know what china's doing right now. while we don't even have the decency to maintain the assets and infrastructure, the roads and bridges that our parents and grandparents had the decency to build for us, starting on this floor -- they are building trains not just in china, but all over asia, to build an economic union to come much -- to come after the united states.
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what's china doing? what i deeply regret about this debate is the end product whether we pass this bill or not, it will not improve health care. there are people who like the affordable care act, there are people who don't like the affordable care act, but everybody is deeply dissatisfied, as they should be, with the way our health care system works. and what we should do is abandon this process and instead go to committee. my chairman, chairman alexander, is perfectly capable of running a bipartisan process that could lead us to a place where we actually are making things better for people who live on the eastern plains of colorado or in the front range of colorado or on the west slope of colorado who may be republicans and democrats but for whom health care is not political. it's about their family and
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about their future and that's who we should keep in mind instead of just the next election around here. everyone has lamented that. i know my time is coming up. the majority leader came to the floor an he's a smart person -- and he's a smart person. he said that major legislation is routinely drafted not in committee but in the majority leader's conference room and dropped on the floor with no opportunity for members to participate in the amendment process, virltly gairn -- virtually guaranteeing a fight. that's what he said. that's what he said. i'm telling you for those of you i was in town hall meetings with seven years ago when people were saying, read the bill -- read the bill. the tea party telling me to be
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faithful to the process. i say we should be saying that right now, be faithful to that constitutional process. he knew that the process wasn't working as it should. he said, quote, when democrats couldn't convince any of us, that is republicans, that obamacare was worth supporting as written, they decided to do it on their own and pass it on a party-line vote. these continue. it may have been the case that on obamacare the will of the country was not to pass the bill at all. that's what i would have concluded, he said, if republicans couldn't get a single democrat vote for legislation of this magnitude. i would have thought maybe this isn't a great idea. so i say to the republicans and democrats that are here today, maybe it be isn't a great idea because they can't even get the
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republican votes. they haven't gotten one democratic vote, they haven't gotten the republican vote to repeal and replace, they had to bring the vice president here to cast the deciding vote because we were -- what a shame for the senate not to do its work and to rely on the executive branch to come here and supply that vote. and every single person in this body knows the president of the united states has no idea or interest what's in this legislation. every single person here knows that. so why are we doing it? we're doing, i guess, to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal obamacare. and i can understand why there's pressure for people to do that because they said that over and over again even though i disagree with their
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characterization of the bill, i disagree with the facts they presented. i understand that -- impulse. i don't understand the impulse of writing the bill in secret -- listen to this, folks -- and not having a single committee hearing. not one committee hearing in the senate. talk about read the bill, have about have a bill written down on paper so we can read it. where are my brethren in the other party who wanted to read the bill .there has been -- there had been a bill for a year and a half. there's no bill. there's no bill because what they are trying to do is figure out what they can eek out across the line here. they are calling it skinny repeal. i don't even know how that satisfies the test when it comes
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to campaign promises made around here, but that's not my issue. but we should just stop. we're at 9% -- i think, mr. president, the last time i checked we had a 15% approval rating or 20% approval rating. don't pass that. we wasted six months, not of our time, but of the american people's time. i've got people all over the state of colorado who would love to come here and testify at a committee hearing about how health care is intersecting their lives, how it's making their life difficult or how they are benefiting from certain things and i would love them to have a chance to come here and testify, but we haven't set up that process. we should. we should stop this. the american people would be relieved if we would stop this partisanship, get together and work on the committee as we
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should do and pass something on the floor. what's forgotten about the affordable care act, even though it didn't have republican votes, and it should have. it had almost 200 republican amendments adopted as part of the process. i agreed with what the majority leader said then. if the process is lousy, the outcome of the bill is likely to be lousy. and an important point he made, it's unlikely to reflect the will of the american people, and when it doesn't, what it's going to mean is we are going to sea seesaw from one election to the next. i am ready to settle for 70% of what i want. i am. i don't think that is an unvirtuous position to have, all these people here all the time talking about the principle they are standing on when you scratch at that and look for the content of the idea underneath that
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principle, there's very seldom anything there. they are often repeating something they heard last night on foxx or msn -- fox or msnbc, but it wouldn't be recognizable to the founders and for them a principle was to unleash the people with different sets of opinions and geographic places in order to do the right thing for this country. that's what we have to do. i thank the indulgence of the presiding officer. with that, i yield the floor.
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senator from alaska. mr.sullivan: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr.sullivan: mr. president, i want to weigh in on a debate that took place on the floor a couple of hours ago when i was presiding in the chair between the majority leader and the minority leader on what we're going to be doing here in the next couple of days on the senate floor. so right now we're having
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health care debate. we're finally having a health care debate. many members on both sides of the aisle, mr. president, i saw your speech a few hours ago, talking about the importance of health care for our country, the importance of, from our perspective, repealing, replacing, repairing a health care system that's not working. certainly not working the way in which it was promised to americans. i won't repeat all the promises made by the former president and many senators, but we know those haven't come to pass. as a matter of fact, a number of us, i certainly believe that my state, the state of alaska, the affordable care act, so-called affordable care act has done a lot more damage than good. just a few statistics in alaska, premiums in the individual market went up over 200% since
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the enactment of the affordable care act. 200%. alaskans in that market, individual alaskans, for one health insurance plan, for one individual pay almost $1,100 a month in premiums for health care. that's not affordable. so we're debating it. it's important, an open amendment process. we're probably going to be debating all night, and that's what we should be doing. the world's greatest deliberative body debating a very important topic. but health care is not the only issue the senate is focused on, mr. president. as a matter of fact, a number of us on the armed services committee over the last several weeks have been working on and debating and bringing amendments
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to the national defense authorization act, the yearly act that authorizes funding and training and equipment and policy for our million carry and the young men and women who serve in our military. it's one of the most important things we do here in the senate by far. so we've been doing that as well as health care which is also extremely important. three weeks ago after a lot of debate in committee, after a lot of hard work, debate between republicans and democrats, the draft ndaa of 2017, the national defense authorization act, focused on our national security, focused on our troops, passed out of the armed services committee 27-0, very bipartisan
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bill, very important bill, and a very important bill for the country to move on after the health care debate. so we had the majority leader, the chairman of the armed services committee had a very simple request of the minority leader this morning when i was in the chair presiding. and the request was once we are done for now because it's going to continue with the health care debate -- we won't be done for a long time, but once we complete the business that we are undertaking for the next several hours on the health care debate, that we move forward to debate and pass ndaa of 2017. pretty simple request, very reasonable request. this bill like health care is extremely important for the nation, for our troops, for
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national security. and on a personal note, it's particularly important for one of our members. the chairman of the senate armed services committee, senator mccain of arizona. we all know him. americans know him. he's been a mentor to many of us, a leader, certainly an american hero who has sacrificed immeasurably for our country. and in another of a series of heheroic acts by the senator frm arizona, he returned to the senate this week after announcing that he's fighting brain cancer. now, senator mccain is a fighter. he's going to win this fight but he's going back to arizona very soon for treatment. so many of us, especially the chairman of the senate armed services committee who did more than anyone to move that bill
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forward in such a bipartisan way, want to take up the ndaa after the health care debate. pretty simple, pretty reasonable, and really good for the country. finish the health care debate for now with this open amendment process that we're beginning already here on the floor and then turn to the ndaa after and debate that. good for our troops, good for our national security, and it would show a lot of respect to the chairman of the committee who's done more for his country and more to advance this important bill than anyone else. so, mr. president, i hope my colleagues, all of my colleagues, this shouldn't be a partisan issue, can agree to this. but unfortunately we're hearing rumors that the other side is saying unless we vote against
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any health care bill to continue to move forward, unless we vote for any health care bill against it, to move forward, then they are not going to take up the ndaa. now, does that make any sense? we're going to debate health care. that's really important. but now we're hearing the other side saying if they don't get their way in the debate, then forget about it. we're not going to take up the bill that authorizes the training and equipping and the policies of the united states military. does that make any sense? the answer to everybody, everybody here in the senate chamber, anyone watching on tv, it makes no sense. these are not connected.
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these are not connected issues. is playing politics with our troops, tying it to another bill any way to advance the national security and the welfare of the men and women serving in our military? the answer is no. you know, unfortunately, mr. president, we've seen this movie before. some might remember last summer right around this time we were working hard on appropriations bills. the appropriations committee voted different appropriations bills out of committee, as they're supposed to do, and they voted the defense appropriations bill out of committee with an overwhelminwhelming bipartisan . so what did we do? we brought it to the floor to debate it and try to pass it. funding for the troops.
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that bill was filibustered six times by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, six times. go home and explain that vote, why you filibustered spending for our troops when they're in combat, by the way, six different times. i came down to this floor numerous times asking somebody, anybody on the other side to come down to the floor and explain why you're filibustering spending for our troops on a bill that passed out of the appropriations committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. so, mr. president, i'm going to ask the same question. the ndaa came out of the armed services committee 27-0. if the minority leader is going to filibuster that, he should come down and explain it. if he's really saying we'll only take up the ndaa if we get our
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way on the health care debate that we're having right now, he should come down and explain that. because it makes no sense. it makes no sense, particularly because we all know that right now we are seeing very, very significant national security threats to our country. pick up the paper. iran, russia, china, and in particular north korea. there was a report in the paper just the other day -- yesterday, front page of "the washington post" saying it's now estimated that north korea is going to have an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile likely by next year that can reach not only my great state of alaska but the rest of the continental united states. these are serious national
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security threats. and one of the provisions in the ndaa that had bipartisan support was the significantly enhanced -- is significantly enhance our country's missile defense. is that important given the north korea threats that are at our doorstep? you think the american people care about that? it is important. it's important as are the hundreds of ore bipartisan provisions in the ndaa that will enhangs our national security -- enhance our national security, authorize funding for our military forces, increase the numbers in our military end strength. and again, very bipartisan. mr. president, you and i have the honor of serving on the armed services committee. it's very bipartisan. we get a lot of work done, led
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by a great senator john mccain president it's an honor to serve there. i believe right now the senate is trying to pass a unanimous consent agreement that as soon as we're done with health care, that we will then take up this critically important bill. as the chairman wants, as he's requested, and as our military needs, and we should do that. this is not a hard decision by democrats or republicans. so i hope we can do that. i want to encourage all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, whatever your plans are in the next couple days, we'll get through this health care debate, very important for the country. and then let's get through the ndaa debate and pass that bill as well.
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but what we shouldn't be doing is playing politics with our military or somehow tying moving forward on an important piece of legislation for them to another issue that has nothing whatsoever to do with them. we shouldn't be doing that. and if we are, shame on those who are. let's move forward. let's have this health care debate. and when it's completed, let's immediately move to the ndaa and pass that. it's a bipartisan bill. it's going to help our nation, help our troops, enhance our national security in dangerous times, and there's no reason that anyone should block moving forward on that important piece of legislation as well. mr. president, i yield the floor.
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